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Knee Problem Treatment Guide

Plica Syndrome

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Updated December 03, 2003

Plica (pronounced PLI-KAH) syndrome occurs when plicae (bands of remnant synovial tissue) are irritated by overuse or injury. Synovial plicae are remnants of tissue pouches found in the early stages of fetal development. As the fetus develops, these pouches normally combine to form one large synovial cavity. If this process is incomplete, plicae remain as four folds or bands of synovial tissue within the knee. Injury, chronic overuse, or inflammatory conditions are associated with development of this syndrome.

What Are the Symptoms of Plica Syndrome? How Is It Diagnosed?

People with this syndrome are likely to experience pain and swelling, a clicking sensation, and locking and weakness of the knee. Because the symptoms are similar to symptoms of some other knee problems, plica syndrome is often misdiagnosed. Diagnosis usually depends on the exclusion of other conditions that cause similar symptoms.

How Is Plica Syndrome Treated?

The goal of treatment is to reduce inflammation of the synovium and thickening of the plicae. The doctor usually prescribes medicine such as ibuprofen to reduce inflammation. The patient is also advised to reduce activity, apply ice and compression wraps (elastic bandage) to the knee, and do strengthening exercises. If this treatment program fails to relieve symptoms within 3 months, the doctor may recommend arthroscopic or open surgery to remove the plicae. A cortisone injection into the region of the plica folds helps about half of the patients treated. The doctor can also use arthroscopy to confirm the diagnosis and treat the problem.

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